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Deb Irving: Back in the Saddle

We ran a competition early in the year titled, Back in the Saddle. Deb Irving was our winner and we're proud to be a small part of her journey 'back to the saddle'. I'm sure many of us can relate to what Deb is sharing with us.

Enjoy reading Deb's story. She has a wonderful ways with words.

I have a confession to make. For the past 8 years, or so I’ve been a ‘One Day I’ll…’ kind of person.
One Day I’ll make more time for myself.
One Day I’ll find time to do those daily exercises to keep my back muscles supple.
 
One Day I’ll lose weight.
One Day I’ll get back in the saddle.
There was just always something more important to do, always something that demanded a higher priority.
In hindsight, those very important higher priorities were just excuses. With my new thinking. I’ve re-termed the phrase ‘One day I’ll…’ to One Dill, because that feels appropriate.
My One Day arrived on October 28th, 2019, very unexpectedly. My much loved, younger brother suffered a sudden, unforeseen, fatal heart attack. He was just 51 years old. The rest of the year passed in a blur of shock, devastation and grief, at times almost overwhelming. The unavoidable truth was that, for my brother, One Day would never eventuate.
The New Year arrived and I broke a long-standing resolution to never, ever set resolutions, and I went and set myself a New Year’s resolution.
 
The day is today, make it happen.
 
I stepped on the scales (Oh God!!), I joined Weight Watchers, I set some goals that I believed were achievable. The one I was most excited about was to get back in the saddle. I tied it in with my health-oriented goals by making it a reward for a 20kg weight loss.
 
I have been a rider all my life, growing up on a farm and riding my way through a succession of ponies and OTTs of ever-increasing heights. Ten years ago our big, beautiful, kind Tex passed away suddenly and I just didn’t have the heart to find another. I convinced myself that I would never find another horse who looked after me the way he did. I leased two mares and bred two foals, bought two weanlings, rescued a third and declared that my horsey needs were fulfilled both through these engaging youngsters and helping my daughter follow her equestrian dreams. And although I did genuinely love all of this, there was always something missing; that thrill that you feel when you stand beside your horse, gather the reins, take a deep breath and swing your leg over the saddle, settling into the most comfortable seat you can imagine, letting your breath out and feeling like you are home.
I had been kidding myself - I missed it and I wanted to have it again.
 
It hasn’t been easy. I was carrying way too much weight, my core strength was questionable (as in, was there even a core in there anymore?), I have a dicky right ankle, a dodgy right knee, a sticky left hip and mild scoliosis that often leaves my back muscles groaning in protest.
But it had to be done, so I upped the hours I spent in the pool until 80 laps felt normal. I joined an online fitness program to do alongside my regular yoga sessions (and discovered that there was indeed a tiny-weeny core in there) and I committed to regular chiro visits to make the structure stronger.
I moved my old riding boots from the back of the wardrobe to the front, there had been a reason they had survived multiple cleanouts! I bought myself a new helmet which was on sale for half price at the local saddlery store and displayed it on the drawers in my bedroom; an everyday reminder to stay on track and a promise of what awaited.
I scrolled Facebook looking for motivation and found Ride Proud Clothing; with 5kgs to go I entered a ‘Get Back in the Saddle’ competition and won a beautiful pair of bootleg riding pants. They sat on the drawers with the helmet, silently egging me on.
I took inspiration where I could find it; the local pony club mum I had known for years who still rode her daughter’s OTT five times a week; the competitor of my own generation who rode the dressage test before my daughter and burst into tears of joy at the completion of her test, falling into the hugs of her support crew; our perennial Australian Olympians, one of whom I met at a neighbour’s Christmas party last year, who refuse to let age be a barrier and continue to raise the bar.
It turns out that one of the most difficult things for me to do was also one of the most important – giving voice to the dream. Admitting what I wanted and what I was prepared to do to make it happen. The immediate support that resulted made an enormous difference. It only takes one supporter who really gets it, really understands what this means to you and can give you the encouragement you need to keep going, to keep trying.
Five months, 24 kgs and a seemingly endless variety of planking, hip openers and stretches later, I’m still working toward my goals, setting new ones as the old become milestones.
My first ride is behind me now, one of those milestones and I’m trying to tone down my daughter’s enthusiasm for what my new riding journey might look like.
For now, I’m just really, really happy to be back in the saddle.

Deb Irving
Photo of Deb Irving, back in the saddle

4 comments

  • Wow talk about determination. What an inspiring woman you are. Congratulations Deb.

    Jill Mottram
  • The day is today, make it happen. Such strong and powerful words, so beautifully written Deb

    Michelle Jones
  • Deb,
    You are an inspiration!
    Congratulations on all you have achieved.
    I too think I’d like to get back into the saddle, I’m no where near your level of rider, but relate, as I lost my beautiful horse and haven’t been able to replace her. I am now looking but to no avail so far for that special horse that will look after the nervous me and build my confidence.

    Elizabeth Webber
  • Well done you, we all have our procrastinating excuses for different things, but it sure feels good when we just get up, steep up and do it!

    Anthea Thomson

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